As the pandemic persists, fitness goals evolve and people focus on post-COVID-19 recovery and sustainable wellness
Caught in a stalled third wave, Chennai is cautious once again. But this time, the focus is more on deep breathing than turmeric injections.
This shift toward being hyper-aware of one’s health began in early 2020, when people began to self-isolate after the odd and unwelcome cold. If in early 2020 there was an unhealthy obsession with immunity boosters and quick fixes, now, two years into the pandemic, there is a more scientific and practical approach to staying healthy. Despite the rise of ‘fitspo’ created by a growing tribe of influencers, rather than being shredded, the 2022 approach to fitness appears to be the healthiest yet: eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get a good night’s sleep. .
focus on movement
Chennai Parkour, for example, which was launched in 2018, has grown significantly despite the pandemic. His recently opened Parkour Pod in Ekkatuthangal is testimony to the same. The 5,000-square-foot training space, which aims to “allow all types of movement under one roof,” has seen a steady stream of new students and loyalists despite the Omicron scare.
Last year, the collective, which holds regular sessions at T Nagar’s Nageshwar Rao Park and Anna Nagar Tower Park, launched in collaboration with Fitrock at Chetpet Ecological Park.
Vishal Kumar, co-founder, says that although the migration online was difficult as parkour is a practical skill, the team had to experiment with new ideas for virtual classes. However, after each recurring closure, they invariably see a rush of students eagerly returning to physical classes.
Similarly, Mickey Mehta, who has been a holistic health and lifestyle coach for the last 40 years, consulting with Bollywood celebrities, says he has conducted more than 250 workshops, as well as personal consultations, during the pandemic, through despite migrating completely online.
“For the past two years, much of my training has focused on recovering from Covid and managing comorbidity,” says Mickey. His programs are personalized according to the individual’s body type, illnesses, lifestyle and personality.
The pandemic was a revelation to many, Mickey believes, and the current amount of awareness about one’s own body and health was long overdue.
“The pandemic saw a lot of people entering the world of fitness for the first time; those who haven’t worked out in a gym before,” Vishal says, adding, “When they show up, they also see a community, which makes them stick around.” Many have realized that exercise is also about getting out, meeting people, socializing, and cheering each other on.
Soundarya Srinivasan, in charge of virtual bootcamps at The Quad, has also been learning parkour since 2019. She says, “On my morning virtual bootcamp alone, I have around 200 students. I think we’ve built a pretty strong community without ever meeting face-to-face.” With the closures, people missed having a schedule, she says.
“Being creative with exercise is also a pandemic trope,” says Mickey. The rise of unusual training modes, especially those that don’t require equipment, from masala bhangra, chair dance to kushti and ballet, as well as skill-based training, are seeing interest.
Many trainees are learning the value of patience and consistency as they balance virtual and in-person workouts despite classes and gyms opening and closing with every shutdown for two years. Vikram Menon of SimpleSTRONG points to an example: “We have a gentleman in class, who is almost 60 years old, who for the last two years has been saying ‘good morning’ and showing up every day before everyone else. He has been showing some impressive results as well.” He adds that he has noticed how “those who sign up online are looking for quick fixes, and those who come for in-person sessions seem to stick around longer.”
Self-introspection aided by free time over the past two years has led many to make lifestyle changes.
Focusing on functional and personalized fitness routines, the Quad has been growing steadily during the pandemic with four physical centers in Chennai and a recently launched virtual bootcamp for clients in Australia, Europe and the UK. Co-founder Raj Ganpath says there have definitely been spurts of interest in personal care and mental health due to the pandemic, but adds that a general shift has yet to be seen.
Focus on recovery
When Rahul Gopal, sports nutritionist and co-founder of The Formula, a lifestyle clinic, contracted COVID-19, his focus turned to eating healthy; get enough protein and vegetables through your diet. He put a halt to his six-day training regimen. “Your body is fighting an infection, so it’s smart not to do anything to aggravate that,” he says. After his week-long quarantine, he has now started training again at his own pace. Eating right and training just help you recover better and faster, says Rahul. To that end, it’s important to address sleep, stress, eat more whole foods, and stay active in general.
Rahul says his guidelines for those who have and have not had COVID-19 remain the same: “Eat enough protein, enough vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, preferably not from oils, and healthier sources of carbohydrates like grains, potatoes, bread or fruit . If you’re doing this in one day, you’re addressing most of your nutrient and micronutrient deficiencies.”
Mickey reiterates that basic lifestyle changes are key to building a stronger body: “Wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, soak in the morning sun, take an air bath (as simple as standing in front of a window ). This is your main source. After that, warm up and do 15 to 20 rounds of surya namaskar.”
Do people who have recovered from the disease ask for specific advice? “Definitely,” says Raj, adding, “Depending on the severity of the infection, the training modality and how you get back to normal changes. If it was a mild infection, we recommend starting with the simplest activity like walking. Once you build a basic level of endurance, say 30 to 40 minutes without feeling exhausted, you gradually start doing other exercises.”
As for those sought after immunity hacks? As everyone who has spent the last two years working on getting stronger has realized, it all comes down to consistency. “Stay active,” says Raj. That automatically makes you healthier.